Police: Former janitor stole church's mission trip money

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LINCOLNTON, N.C.,None - Lincolnton police say a church opened its doors to a troubled teenager, only to have him take off with their money and expensive equipment.

Investigators said 19-year-old Brandon Barnette's long criminal record would have made it nearly impossible for him to get a job.

Without Walls Freedom Center hired him as a janitor as part of its outreach program to help people reform their lives.

Church members said Barnette was a good employee at first -- respectful, courteous and on time. But over the eight weeks on the job, that slowly changed.

"It looked like he was stealing stuff daily, weekly while he was working there," said Sgt. Matt Painter with the Lincolnton Police Department.

Painter said they were small things, and church members thought the items were just missing.

Barnette eventually quit his job, and police say a few days later, he broke in the church through a window he had left unlocked.

"I guess he just figured it would be easier to take it all at one time," Painter said.

Church members said they weren't upset with him.

"We are just going to pray for him," Randy Futrell said.

Police think Ralph Hall helped Barnette steal nearly $4,000 that was meant to be used for a mission trip to Haiti, and equipment. Hall is under arrest.

After learning of the break-in, generous donors gave the church three times the amount of the stolen cash. The pastor and his wife took a flight to Haiti on Tuesday morning.

Anyone with information on Barnette's whereabouts is asked to call Lincoln County Crime Stoppers at 704-736-8909.